Modern Art and the Catholic Church

Jimmy Mac sent me this link on the Vatican wading into the play in contemporary art. Laura Gascoigne on the move:

With the Vatican also planning participation in this autumn’s Venice Biennale of Architecture, it appears to be announcing a new post-modern era of church patronage, in which cutting-edge ecclesiastical buildings such as Renzo Piano’s Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church in Foggia will be filled with equally cutting-edge art. If so, it’s a welcome change of direction after a century of half-baked modernism that must surely mark the nadir of ecclesiastical art. The only question is, why suddenly now? Maybe the Vatican is tired of hearing art galleries hailed as the new churches and gallery-going as the new form of Sunday worship, and feels that it’s time to snatch the initiative back.

What kind of art do you think the Vatican would patronize? Do you suppose it would be a rehashing of traditional forms and ideas? 300 or 500-year imitations done with the latest tools and techniques? Or something rather avant garde?

Laura Gascoigne again:

With the galloping commercialisation of contemporary art, there’s a crying need for independent patrons who take the long view and are not in the market to make a quick buck. The Church could be just such a patron, championing the cause of a spiritual, slow-burning art, an art designed not for provocation or instant gratification but for contemplation – an art, like the great church art of the past, made to last.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Modern Art and the Catholic Church

  1. Gavin says:

    I consider myself the embodiment of “I don’t know art, but I know what I like.” Except I often don’t even know what I like. I’m reminded of an iconographer who came to speak at my last parish. He made the point that modern forms of art are inherently anti-Christian for various reasons. For example, he said that by portraying raw emotion Pollock was separating the soul from the body. Or that photorealism neglects the divine order of creation. On the whole, I found the arguments convincing, so I would tend to be against modern religious art. On the other hand, I suppose one could move Christian art past the renaissance, it’s just a question of what it would look like. I don’t think the covers of Missals really cut it.

    The metric I was taught is that Christian art shows the world how it REALLY is. If that can be done with new forms, that seems like a noble endeavor to me.

  2. Jon D. says:

    If the modern art wing of the Vatican Museum is any indication, this could be good for both art and the church.

    My only regret during my trip to Rome was that I didn’t budget enough time to spend in the modern art wing of the Vatican Museum (it is, after all, next to the Sistine Chapel). I was expecting poor, cheesy, semi-Christan art, but was overwhelmed by the world-class and challenging art with religious themes.

    Art can have the power to “move” people at an emotional level. And if it “moves” people toward Christ, all the better.

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